One of ALA’s greatest strengths is the opportunities we create for members to meet other members, building professional networks that help you get your job done more effectively. These networks will be the people you rely on for advice and mentoring, as well as the ones who will help alert you to job opportunities and be your professional references. “I told my students how their involvement in professional service not only helps the organization or associations for which they are volunteering,” says Camila Alire, ALA President and dean emerita at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “But it also aids them in developing networks of colleagues and friends that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Another great strength of the Association is our ability to bring the best thinkers and practitioners together around a new idea or an emerging issue in libraries. ALA helps build bridges within the library community and knows from experience that this is a highly interdependent profession. “A challenge to one kind of library affects us all, and the best way to respond is by having a strong, extensive network of support,” says Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director. “You will find that network among ALA members.” Member groups work within ALA, but they also reach out to other professional associations to form alliances for libraries.
How to Build Your Professional Network at ALA
Developing a network of colleagues is about building relationships that help advance careers. The fastest way to get started networking is to join a division or round table and then volunteer for a committee, interest group or community that appeals to you. ALA, division and round table committees come in two types: process committees and policy committees. Process meaning governance, awards and outreach; policy meaning issues like standards, legislation and advocacy. There is an extensive list of committees from around the Association the Get Involved wiki. Likewise, visit ALA Connect for a run down of ongoing committee and interest group work that you can watch or volunteer for.
The New Members Round Table (NMRT) is a natural place to begin building your network. NMRT guarantees a committee or workgroup spot for everyone who asks. Visiting their Committees page for a run down of their activities. “ALA Membership puts you at the center of a changing and dynamic profession, says Courtney Young, president of NMRT and Associate Librarian at Penn State University Libraries. “NMRT helps you connect with professionals around the world who are leaders and peer resources. And NMRT helps you navigate ALA so that you can follow your interests within the association.”
Division, round table and office email lists, blogs and social networks are a consistently interesting place to meet other members and engage personally. Plus, ‘lurkers’ are welcome and even encouraged. The ReadWriteConnect wiki has links to hundreds of resources for you, broken out by library type or interest across social networks and e-lists around the profession. ALA Connect is filled with informal gathering spots to make personal connections around topics that interest you.
The very best place to meet other members is at an ALA conference, meeting, symposium or CE class. These events put you in the same room – in person or virtually – with thought leaders and fellow practitioners. The chance that an ALA conference gives you to meet people and share your experiences should not be missed. It is inspiring to be around so many good ideas and so many new colleagues.
How to Network for Library Issues Around ALA
The American Library Association is the place to get results – together – for libraries. ALA, its divisions, round tables and offices hosts committees that address the key issues affecting libraries and develops policy, statements or actions that affect change. ALA can help you find other people who want to address the issues that you believe in. Start with identifying the topic or area that appeals to you, then visit the Get Involved wiki to see the committees or interest groups that address it. Also, look into that topic on
ALA Connect. This will yield existing networks that have coalesced around the topic. The beauty of ALA Connect, though, is that if there isn’t a network around your interest, you can create your own and advertise it to other members. Whether you are looking to lead or contribute, these issue-based networks are effective in getting things done for libraries and the profession.